Britain Sale on the Blatherwycke Estate
Forest landscapes - woodlands
This is the edge of Fineshade Wood above the abbey. Taken from the Jurassic Way footpath, this picture shows the mix of woodland and grazing that is thought to have been typical throughout Rockingham Forest centuries ago. (OS grid reference SP9797)
A typical view inside one of the large remaining wooded sections of the former forest, (Bedford Purlieus, TL0399). This is nationally important lowland Ancient Woodland, noted for its great diversity of herbaceous plants and associated fauna.
A few other large areas of Ancient Woodland remain, scattered across the former forest area. On the left is a ride through Southwick Wood (TL0092) which is privately owned and managed by Forestry England. This is a magnificent area of Oak high forest.
Above is an ancient coppice stool. The Small-leaved Lime trees in the Easton Hornstocks National Nature Reserve (TF0100) have been coppiced for centuries and, under Natural England's management, that continues today.
This picture was taken from a footpath that runs 4 miles south from King's Cliffe, eventually ending in the village of Southwick (TL0093). It shows the northern side of Southwick Wood which is designated as Wood Pasture - woodland that is lightly grazed by cattle.
This is Great Watkinson, in the southern part of Fineshade Wood (SP9998). It is classed as "Plantation on Ancient Woodland". Most of the planted conifers have now been cleared here and the woodland has largely been left to regenerate naturally. The picture shows one of the widened rides that have been recently created there.
There are significant sections of Ancient Woodland belonging to private estates. This photo shows part of the 32ha Spanhoe Wood on the Bulwick Estate where the woodland is managed with great sensitivity. (Details on the estate's website here.)
On the same estate there are also areas of recently planted woodland. This shows a 1.5ha site planted with native species and fenced to prevent deer damage in 2014. Notice the broad irregular rides - a far cry from what we often think of as "plantation woodland".
The Biggin and Benefield estate lies to the west of Oundle and has some excellent fragments of Ancient Woodland. The pictures here show Spring Wood, 63 ha of mixed-age woodland to the west of Lower Benefield. There is no public access to the wood itself but it is bounded on three sides by public footpaths that allow you to see the extensive areas of Bluebells in spring.
You might not expect to find Ancient Woodland in the centre of Corby but the area known as Thoroughsale and Hazel Woods is the largest urban AW site in the UK. Thanks to the foresight of town planners when Corby was expanding, this and other fragments of Rockingham Forest remain and provide a green lung in the middle of the town. They are cared for by active "Friends of..." groups and are part of the Corby Woodland Project, run by North Northamptonshire Council.
Bedford Purlieus - a wooded island
However, as the aerial view shows, it hardly blends into a forested landscape: its boundaries are ruler-drawn and it is almost surrounded by arable farmland.
In just a few steps, you move from species-rich woodland into wildlife-devoid prairie ,as the following pictures show so clearly.
Bedford Purlieus is one of the largest remaining areas of high-canopy deciduous woodland and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and also one of Rockingham Forest's three National Nature Reserves.
With almost 500 recorded plant species, the wood's high level of biodiversity is attributed to the varied underlying geology which has given rise to a rich mix of soil types.